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End of Semester GI Bill Update

End of Semester GI Bill Update
 
We reported a few weeks ago in GI Benefits in Limbo that GI Bill housing and tuition payments have been delayed as a result of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017. The sections of the law, which were implemented in 2017, required a complete overhaul and upgrade of the Veterans Benefits Administration technology infrastructure. While those upgrades were to be completed by this previous August, as of November, the majority of the upgrades had yet to be made and therefore payments were delayed across the country.
Fortunately for GI Bill recipients, the VBA has made progress and was able to update the thousands of students who have been waiting on payments.
Effective last week, the VBA had put in place a plan to be able to process the Spring 2020 semester by December 2019. This includes addition staffing and support as well as the solicitation of contractor bits.
While this is something to look forward to for many students, the VBA is also making adjustments to assist the students with immediate needs. The month housing allowance rates will be set to the Department of Defence Basic Housing Allowance rates. In many cases, this rate is equal to or higher than the payments that have been received previously. Additionally, the VBA will be correcting the underpayments retroactively.
Even better news for those who happened to be fortunate enough to have received an overpayment this year, the VBA will not be collecting those overpayments. Housing payments will be paid out according to the location of the academic institution’s main campus and will be independent of the student’s actual physical address.
All of these changes will come to a close on December 1, 2019. It is expected that VBA will have developed and implemented a satisfactory IT solution for sections 107 and 501 of the “Forever GI Bill” law. Many of the changes are an attempt to make the process easier for all participants. Changes such as more easily defining training sites as school campuses when will reduce burden and work for both students and schools. VBA is expected to remain in constant contact with Veterans, service organizations and Congress on the status of the implementations and expectations throughout the process. The call for increased communication  is in response to claim levels being triple that of normal in September of this year. While VBA claims levels are back to normal, they are encouraging schools and students to get Spring submissions in early to ensure timely payment.
Secretary Wilkie said “Redesigning the way VBA calculates Post 9/11 GI Bill housing rates during a busy academic season was like flying a plane while building it, and that was unfair and frustrated to Veterans and taxpayers. That’s why we are resetting our implementation of the law for the next year to ensure we get the technology and formula right to put Veterans first. In the meantime, beneficiaries receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowances will be paid at the DoD BAH rate, which in many cases will be equal to or higher than their current payment.”
Some other important details to remember:

  • VBA timeline standards are 28 days for new enrollments, 14 days for re-enrollments
  • Spring submissions can be sent in now
  • The Education Call Center number is 888-442-4551 and is open 8am to 7pm, EST, Monday-Friday
  • If you are experiencing a financial hardship due to the fall semester delays or need other assistance, please contact the Education Call Center

Military Connection: VA Calls for More Town Halls: By Debbie Gregory

VA town hallWe seem to have become a very acronym-heavy country, especially as it pertains to the government. In an effort to make things more clear, VA stands for Veterans Administration,  and is the U.S. department whose secretary, Robert McDonald, reports to the president regarding programs and benefits for Veterans. Under the umbrella of this department, there are three divisions:

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) This division provides all of the healthcare and medical needs. The VHA is the entity that staffs and operates the medical facilities.

There is also the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) that processes and manages all benefits, including applications for claims and administering benefits payments.

The third is the National Cemetery Administration, responsible for the maintenance of VA cemeteries, as well as funeral and memorial benefits.

Veterans should know that these three administrations don’t always communicate very well with one another. This is why VA hospitals don’t always know when benefits have changed, or why, even though the VHA knows that you changed your address, your benefit check didn’t reach you at your new residence.

These and other communication issues have plagued Veterans and the VA. But it appears that the lines of communication are opening up.

On Wednesday, October 08, 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that VA Secretary Robert McDonald has directed all VHA and VBA facilities to continue to hold quarterly town-hall events. Mr. McDonald’s order is an attempt to improve service throughout all divisions of the VA, and to hear directly from Veterans nationwide.

“Every one of our medical centers and regional benefits offices held town hall meetings around the country in August and September, but we have more listening to do to better serve Veterans and their families,” Secretary McDonald said. “As part of our Road to Veterans Day, VA is taking a hard look at everything we do in order to reorganize the Department around the needs of Veterans. Direct feedback from Veterans, employees and stakeholders is an important component of that Roadmap, and key to improving our services and operations,” Secretary McDonald added.

Details of town hall events at each location will be made through each individual local facility.  Veterans are strongly encouraged to attend these meetings to ensure that each division of the VA knows what they need to do in order to better serve you!

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA Calls for More Town Halls: By Debbie Gregory